By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
RCPS applies for $30M grant from Race to the Top
Placeholder Image

Rockdale County Public Schools applied directly for nearly $30 million of federal Race to the Top money to strengthen personalized learning for students.

RCPS applied for $29,942,532 over two years. Grant winners will be announced before the end of December.

If awarded, the grant would be more than 10 percent of the school system's annual budget, which was about $124.8 million this year.

RCPS was one of 23 Georgia school districts to apply for this latest round of Race to the Top funding, which is nearly $400 million given out in 15-25 grants. the This round asks school districts to "improve learning and teaching through the personalization of strategies, tools, and supports for students and educators" as well as use 21st century technology, close the achievement gap and increase graduation rates.

Assistant Superintendent Gene Baker said RCPS's proposed PLACES model (Personalized Learning Assures College/Career Empowerment for Students) would focus on students' own interests but would also have increased rigor, certain pathways of study, and preparation for college or a career after high school.

"It's a unique blend for each of our students," said Baker.

The pathways of study would be grouped into the following proposed areas: business and innovation, advanced academics, visual and performing arts, and world languages and global studies. Business and innovation would include the 16 CTAE (Career Technical Agricultural Education) paths students can already choose from in Rockdale Career Academy and their high schools.

Other componets of the PLACES model include flexibility in location and time of learning, project based applied learning, student designed and driven paths, competency based progression, real time use of technology, and a preschool through 12th grade pathway.

These programs would also pursue goals already outlined in the Strategic Plan, said Baker, especially Strategy I -"Create a rigorous system of teaching and learning that empowers students to define and achieve educational success." This includes the creation of more magnet and specialized academies, personalized learning portfolios, partnerships with local colleges, and digital/technology resources in classrooms.

Baker said planning for this application began six months ago and has been a collaborative effort between community leaders, faculty, and administrators. More than 20 letters of recommendation from local leaders and officials have been sent on behalf of RCPS.

 Superintendent Rich Autry warned that this model was not a final draft and was subject to revision.

The US Department of Education announced the grant in May and released the application form in August.

RCPS is no stranger to receiving Race to the Top funds. Earlier this year, the district was awarded about $677,000 over the next two years for setting up a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) focused academy within Memorial Middle School. The grant was given from the state's $19 million of RTTT Innovation Fund money.

Rockdale was one of 26 school districts signed up when Georgia was selected for a $200 million Race to the Top grant in 2010. RCPS received about $2.35 million, to be used over five years. About $700,000 of the $2.35 million RCPS received will be set aside for monetary incentives tied to teacher and administrator evaluations. 

For more information on this latest district-direct Race to the Top competition, go to